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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, January to March 2019



Homeless charity makes urgent call for more volunteers
Two Ghanaian students will learn from world's best eye care professionals.
SeeAbility was proud to be charity partner of 100% Optical
Childhood cancer charity boss ‘amazed’ by national optician’s £600k donation milestone
Opticians’ crisis service sees 327 this Christmas
Read the archived news from Oct-Dec on Charity

Homeless charity makes urgent call for more volunteers

February 2019

VCHP Volunteers wanted
Volunteer optometrists, dispensing opticians and team leaders are urgently needed by Vision Care for Homeless centres around the country.

The team leaders – which requires about ten hours of administrative volunteering a month – are particularly interesting roles for anyone who would like to help to ensure that the regional centres are self-governing and self-funding. “It is a great opportunity for someone who is well used to dealing with the administrative side of running a practice. The people filling the roles might also have some thoughts on raising funds in their local community. It is a chance for someone who really wants to make a difference, and the team leaders can tailor volunteering to suit their hours,” said Georgia Hannen, Manager of VCHP Volunteer Operations.

Brighton-based optometrists and Dispensing Opticians can work any morning of the week; Birmingham is in need of Dispensing Opticians on Monday mornings; Exeter needs support with the professional team on Monday and Tuesdays; Leeds needs an optometrist on a Monday from 11.30am;

In London volunteers are needed to work at the home of the charity – the Crisis centre on Monday afternoons, and to support the mobile clinic on Monday mornings which is a role out in the community.

“We have tremendous support from the optical community and particularly from the suppliers who do a great job in helping us with frames, lenses and glazing. Thanks to the industry support our test rooms are well kitted out and so it is a very rewarding role to fill, where volunteers can make a direct impact on the lives of local homeless people,” added Georgia.

Two Ghanaian students will learn from world's best eye care professionals.

Januray 2019

Nutifafa Esther Senanu
Two students from Ghana are preparing to be flown more than 7,000 miles to Manchester for a prestigious contact lens conference after winning travel grants.

The funding means Nutifafa Esther Senanu (left) from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, and Ebenezer Zaabaar from the University of Cape Coast, will be able to attend the 2019 British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) Clinical Conference and Exhibition.

The BCLA will provide a complimentary full delegate package for both students for the event while the travel grant was awarded by not-for-profit organisation The Optical Foundation, whose mission is to make eye care accessible for all in Ghana, especially children.

Nutifafa and Ebeneezer were chosen out of 20 candidates who applied for The Optical Foundation 2019 Frans Oosterhof Travel Grant.

Carolina Kunnen of the Optical Foundation, said: “We had always intended to allocate one travel grant to the top performing male and another to the top performing female and were thrilled that the judge's scoring highlighted these two candidates as the top performing candidates.

“We are also pleased that one candidate was successful from Kumasi and one from Cape Coast, with very little separating the two applicants.”

Ebenezer Nutifafa and Ebeneezer (right) will be able to absorb cutting edge learning from BCLA Conference delegates, and take it back to Ghana to inspire fellow students and eye care professionals.

They will hear about the latest innovation and clinical insight, and take part in hands-on workshops showcasing the most up-to-the-minute techniques.

Both students will also be able to experience a dedicated exhibition from the world’s leading contact lens and ocular surface management manufacturers and suppliers.

BCLA chief executive Chery Donnelly said: “The two Ghanaian students will now have an incredible opportunity to hear from our line-up of stellar speakers from across the world. It truly is an international conference and we look forward to welcoming both Nutifafa and Ebeneezer to Manchester. It will be the trip of a lifetime.”

The three-day Clinical Conference and Exhibition, due to take place from May 30 to June 1, is returning to Manchester, with the city set to play host to one of the profession’s most eagerly anticipated international conferences – featuring a new hashtag for 2019 of #AlwaysLearning.

This grant selection process involved the assistance of The Optical Foundation Advisory Committee consisting of Eric Papas, Fayiz Mahgoub, Ayeswarya Ravikumar, Bianca van Leeuwen, and Thomas Stokkermans.

CooperVision UK is funding the students airfares, transport and hotel accommodation.

SeeAbility was proud to be charity partner of 100% Optical

January 2019

To kick off their 220th anniversary year, SeeAbility were proud to be official charity partner of 100% Optical, the largest optical event in the UK which will took place on 12–14 January at London ExCel.

The partnership came at an exciting time, as the newly published Long Term NHS plan commits to investing and working with partners to ensure children with learning disabilities and autism have their eyesight needs met.

SeeAbility is the only UK charity dedicating to addressing this situation.

Lisa Hopkins, SeeAbility’s CEO said:

“Our research clearly shows that thousands of children with learning disabilities are not getting the basic eye care they need and which they have a right to access.

" Many are living life in a total blur, unable to see clearly for want of a simple pair of glasses.
"We’re delighted with the pledge to support the eye care of children in special schools and we look forward to working in partnership with individuals and companies across the eye care sector to deliver this and other exciting programmes.”

SeeAbility’s work empowers people with learning disabilities to manage their eye health by providing educational training sessions to help people understand how to look after their eyes and what happens at an eye test.

Thanks to partners like 100% Optical, SeeAbility is able to create opportunities for optical professionals to increase and improve accessibility within the sector.

At this year’s show, SeeAbility gave expert advice on how to make optical practices accessible and how best to support patients with learning disabilities. At their stand, attendees learnt more about the charity’s searchable database of accessible optometrists, pick up helpful guides and accessible resources for patients

It’s all part of SeeAbility’s mission to transform eye care for the people who need it most.

Childhood cancer charity boss ‘amazed’ by national optician’s £600k donation milestone

January 2019

Funding boost for cancer charity as optical retailer presents 2018 donation

CHECT CharityA charity supporting families through the turmoil of an eye cancer diagnosis has paid tribute to Vision Express for eight years of fundraising efforts, which have raised a much-needed £600,000 to help survivors of a rare condition called retinoblastoma (Rb).

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) and Vision Express first joined forces in 2010. Over eight years their award-winning partnership has raised awareness of the aggressive eye cancer, affecting babies and under 5s, and its symptoms.

Alongside educational initiatives to urge parents to prioritise eye tests, young ambassadors living with the condition have visited Vision Express stores across the UK as VIPs to open new stores. Fundraising challenges have included an endurance cycling event called Ride4Sight, skydives, marathons, raffles and an annual Christmas quiz.

The charity’s chief executive, Patrick Tonks,(pic above) paid tribute to the optician, saying: “I’ve worked for the charity for over three years and I still can’t truly comprehend the impact a diagnosis of Rb has on families with a baby or very young child. The cancer currently has a 98% survival rate; however, the treatment process can be very challenging – about half of the children have an eye removed to stop the cancer from spreading, which has long term implications for them and their families.

“I was amazed when I first found out the total amount raised. We really wouldn’t have been able to help so many children and families over the last eight years without Vision Express’ support - fewer people would be aware of the signs and symptoms of Rb and so it would be more difficult for some people to get an early diagnosis. From everyone at CHECT and from all the families we work with, a massive thank you goes to Vision Express.”

CHECT kicked off the New Year with with a cheque for £46,000 presented to the team by Vision Express, representing the donations pledged in the past 12 months

Commenting on the partnership, Dan McGhee, director of professional services at Vision Express, said; “Children’s sight can be tested at any age, and it’s recommended that they see an optometrist before they start school and begin learning to read. With eyes being fully developed between the age of eight and ten years old, many sight issues that have gone undetected by that time are largely irreversible. It’s important to remind parents that all children under the age of 16, or under 19 and in full-time education, are entitled to a free eye test and a contribution towards glasses or lenses on the NHS.”

“Our relationship with CHECT is extremely special to us. Vision Express was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if Rb is suspected. We know how important is for children affected to get specialist care without delay. Thanks to our education programme and fundraising, we’re proud to know we make a difference to families who face such a devastating diagnosis.”

To help support CHECT visit: or

Opticians’ crisis service sees 327 this Christmas

January 2019

Crisis at ChristmasVolunteer opticians from Vision Care for Homeless People saw 327 patients at London’s Crisis clinics this Christmas. Hundreds of pairs of glasses were dispensed to people living on the streets with uncorrected vision which leaves them very vulnerable. Twenty three people were referred to hospital for ophthalmic treatment or further investigations.

Matthew, 28, visited the Vision Care for Homeless People clinic at Paddington Green and was diagnosed as being -15.00 dioptres. He lost his specs two weeks before and described “the world as being for the brave without glasses”.

Frequently subjected to violence, the homeless face barriers to accessing eyecare and many rely on the year-round services of the charity which now has eight regional UK centres.

The goodwill of the optical profession and supply chain ensured that clinics ran across London during the festive week.

Maya Patel, an optometrist from Harrow, volunteering for the third successive year, explained –
“I don’t feel that it is Christmas if I am not here. Our patients make us feel very happy because they appreciate what we do so very much. We were scheduled to run 30 clinics during the week but because of the demand we have run many more.

“Our clinics are equipped with all the latest diagnostic technology – kindly loaned by optical suppliers – and our volunteers have come from all over the UK.”
Bana Garib, the Eye Clinic Service Organiser, said that more than 60 volunteers had turned up to run the service, including a number of ophthalmologists from Moorfields.

“Some of our patients speak movingly about how they have not been treated with so much decency and respect for many years. Alarmingly, we have picked up some pathology which has seen the patients referred to hospital. We have certainly seen a younger demographic this year. Glasses get broken regularly by people sleeping on buses and through street violence.”

The Vision Care for Homeless People Clinics in the UK will have seen nearly 2,000 patients during 2018 and grateful thanks for support goes to: the volunteers and optical supply companies - Alcator, Bondeye, Brulimar, Essilor, Hilton Optical, Kent Optic, Lenstec, Mainline, Mid-Optic, Optoplast, Shamir, Specsavers, Three-Sixty and Topcon.

Picture shows the volunteer team at Paddington Green. Also (left), Maya Patel and (right) Bana Garib.

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